Coming off their 23-12 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking for some positive momentum from their week-long trip to Jacksonville.
Up in the corner of northeast Florida, the two teams participated in two joint practices during the week that led up to a Sunshine State Showdown before a nationally televised game on ESPN on Thursday night. Though the Jaguars seemed to be the ones with all the energy during the practices, it was the Buccaneers who came out sharp and energized, which helped them get their first preseason win of 2017, 12-8.
Tampa Bay’s run defense was dominant, holding Jacksonville to just one yard rushing on seven carries in the first half. The Jaguars’ starters were held to only 13 yards rushing on 10 carries through three quarters.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the first team played the entire first half, and all but two of their five drives ended in points. Winston finished 21-for-29 passing with 196 yards but no touchdowns – there were a few throws that should have been, including a 43-yarder that was dropped by Mike Evans at the goal line. Most of Winston’s drives were long and methodical, hitting a variety of different receivers. It was much of the same that we saw from them in the opening drive in Cincinnati last week.
Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Getty Images
Evans led the first team with five catches on six targets for 57 yards. Adam Humphries was next with four catches on five targets for 42 yards, then O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson followed up with two catches each.
Starting running back Doug Martin performed well with five carries for 30 yards and a touchdown; he showed that he was the most effective back during the game. The team even got creative enough to give Jackson a wide receiver end around, which picked up 15 yards and a first down. Running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims were held in check after Martin, both failing to get more than 10 total yards on a handful of carries. Peyton Barber led all rushers will 42 yards on nine carries as Tampa Bay rushed for 130 yards on 33 carries (3.9 avg.).
Though it was mostly good from the first team, the dropped touchdown by Evans, a miss-read touchdown throw to Brate that never happened, and an errant throw that should have been in interception in the red zone by Winston left some things to still work on for the first team.
On defense, linebacker Lavonte David stole the show. He came up with two nice tackles on the defense’s first drive, had a sack and a drive-stopping tackle later in the half. He was a big reason why the team held a shutout going into half. Vernon Hargreaves got picked on quite a bit as the team’s No. 1 cornerback going against Allen Robinson. Though he didn’t give up a touchdown on the stat-sheet, two drops in the end zone (on the same drive) meant he should have.
In the second half, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Barber took over. While Barber looked good to start the half, which included a long 13-yard run, Fitzpatrick picked up his hot-and-cold streak from last week with a couple of nice throws, but then an interception to end the team’s opening drive of the first half.
Fitzpatrick finished the game 6-for-9 with 47 yards and a pick. Rookie running back Jeremy McNichols came into the game late and got 11 carries (most on the team) for 32 yards, but most of the second- and third-string units were ineffective on offense and didn’t score points.
While starting at linebacker for the first time, Kendell Beckwith recored four total tackles, two of which were for a loss in the backfield. Cornerback Ryan Smith looked better this week, despite having a bad practice. He almost had a interception on Blake Bortles.
Kicker Nick Folk was two-for-three on field goals on Thursday night, but had an extra point blocked. Both of his makes were shorter than 40 yards, and his lone miss was from 47. New kicker Zach Hocker assumed kickoff duties after Folk took the opening kickoff, but Hocker did not attempt a field goal in the game.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org